April 03, 2008

O 'Grafikos' Dimarchos

Quick quiz for people who don't know very much but like to talk a lot:

Q. When was Nicosia divided?
A. In January 1964. (Not 1974)

Q. What is the Green Line?
A. The line drawn in a green felt pen (called chinagraph at the time) by a British officer across the map of Nicosia at points where armed Greek and Turkish Cypriots were facing each other after days of fierce fighting. (UNFICYP had not yet arrived and the ceasefire line has nothing to do with the Turkish invasion)

Q. Why?
A. Because President Makarios and Vice-President Kutchuk had realised that matters had got out of control, or their control, and asked the Brits as a guarantor power to help. (It was not imposed by foreign powers).

Q. What had set the violence off?
A. Too complicated to explain in a quick quiz.

Q. Why wasn't the problem sorted out quickly?
A. Stubbornness, stupidity, insularity, chauvinism, the Cold War etc. etc.

People forget that until 1974 we could still drive around most of Cyprus, avoiding Turkish enclaves, and frankly marginalising the Turkopliktoi as they were called at the time, the displaced of Lefka, Omorphita, Neapolis etc., and completely ignoring the fact that some Turkish villages were abandoned. People moved out of central Nicosia over the years because the Green Line was there, 1974 was just the death sentence to an ailing, tired community.

In 1970 an MP called Lellos Demetriades said 'Cyprus for the Cypriots', was immediately branded a traitor and put on the Athens junta's black list. As mayor of Nicosia he was branded a traitor again because he made the brave step of meeting with the Turkish Cypriot mayor (not pseudo or so-called because there are two mayors of Nicosia under the 1960 constitution, one of the terms which caused so much grief from 1960-1963) and agreeing to the setting up of the Nicosia Sewage Board. By the time of the Nicosia Master Plan people were beginning to come round to the idea that it might be practical if at any time in the future, if there was ever a solution, Nicosia was unified and streets didn't end up in concrete walls. Lellos always believed the time would come. He travelled the whole world and impressed everyone he met with his vision of Cyprus for the Cypriots (except for the Cypriots themselves). He underlined the division of his city and his island to everyone he spoke to, he put up the plaque at the end of Ledra Street saying The Last Divided Capital of Europe.

He fought with all his heart and so when the Ledra Street barricade at last came down after 44 years he was there saying let us enjoy the moment, it's not the solution to the Cyprus problem but it's a small step towards it, it's a crack in the wall. And being Lellos he lashed out against all the negative comments being run by most of the commentators sitting in the television studios, the eternal discussions about whether the Turkish soldiers had pulled back, whether they were still lurking around, whether they were there but in civilian clothes, whether the Turkish Cypriot policemen had stepped over the line, whether Christofias had caved in to the Turks.

In the Sigma studio Koutalianos of EDEK went ballistic, launching a vicious attack on Lellos ending in the demeaning phrase: 'katantisen grafikos' (difficult to translate into English for non-Greek speakers, literally picturesque but meaning eccentric, out of it, not worth considering).

Bravo Koutaliané! What have you ever done for Cyprus except bored everyone to tears with your monotonous, pompous, chauvinistic pronouncements.

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